One of my players is a rogue and has been, on his turn, using Cunning Action to hide as a bonus action and immediately after attacking. I have been ruling that this does work to grant him advantage as an unseen attacker as I believe that is the RAW, but it seems a little strange. He is really, in the span of 6 seconds, ducking behind a corner and popping back out and this completely disorientates his target? I guess I just wanted to make sure I was ruling correctly

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No, this doesn't work in melee.

At least not the important second half.

  1. Yes, they can duck behind the corner and hide. All they need to do to be allowed to hide is break line of sight.
  2. No, they can't just pop back out and sneak attack. To sneak attack, they need advantage, and to get that from being unseen they have to still be unseen when they attack (PHB, p. 195):

    When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

    Unfortunately for the rogue, as soon as they pop out in front of an attacker that's already aware of their presence, they are immediately seen and no longer count as unseen when they attack (PHB, p. 177):

    In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you.

Sneak attack only works if they sneak up on an enemy who doesn't know they're there. Popping out of hiding isn't sneaky, unless the enemy is surprised — and they can't surprise an enemy that is “aware of danger”. When they duck behind a corner in combat, the enemy is aware of danger and watching all around, and is impossible to sneak up on (without unusual circumstances), because that enemy is the opposite of surprised — they are actively on guard.

Does it work at range?

Not easily. It can work as long as they avoid being spotted, but not being spotted is the hard part: since the attacker's location is automatically given away and after that it's easy to see them, special precautions are required to prevent being seen despite the target knowing exactly where they are.

To do that at range you're working with the same rules — they need to be unseen, they need to stay unseen until after they make the attack, and the target needs to fail to locate them after being attacked. It's that last part that makes this difficult — by an explicit rule, attacking reveals a character's location (PHB, p. 195):

If you are hidden—both unseen and unheard—when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

So to make this work at range, they need to arrange fictional circumstances somehow to defeat that. The usual way to do this with ranged attacks is to

  1. attack while unseen (usually in cover1), revealing their location,
  2. either have attacked while in cover, or move to break line of sight or into cover,
  3. hide now that they're somewhere that allows a Stealth check,
  4. move to a new location without that movement being seen, to make their location unknown again,
  5. then, attack from their new location, unseen.

This convoluted process is often necessary because, at step (1) the ranged attacker has already revealed their location, and all it takes is a successful Perception check to see them (assuming the attacker is not blindingly obvious once the enemy knows where to look) for the advantage from being unseen to be removed. Steps (2)–(5) establish a new location that has not already been revealed, allowing the next attack to be made unseen.

(However, this process can be largely skipped if the hiding spot is so good that Perception checks to see the attacker are likely to fail. To be a good sniper, make a good sniper nest! And hope you're not seen, and have an escape route planned.)

But popping out from hiding in a single location before attacking? No, that won't grant advantage, because just like in the melee situation, the attacker is immediately seen once they move out from their hiding spot to line up the next shot.

Ugh, this is too hard!

Well then, do it the simple way: an enemy that has an ally of the rogue's adjacent to it can also be Sneak Attacked. That allows Sneak Attack every round with no need to fiddle with movement or hiding or seen/unseen variables. Just flank and shiv.


1. This post uses “cover” in the dictionary word's tactical sense, to describe the activity happening in the game fiction. Whether that cover is mechanically represented with Obscurement (PHB, p. 183) or Cover (p. 196) will depend on the exact circumstances as adjudicated by the DM on the scene, as is appropriate.

Yes, but not without penalty

There is advice from Mike Mearls on this topic on Twitter (http://www.sageadvice.eu/tag/sniper/ and http://www.sageadvice.eu/2014/09/01/the-rogue-and-the-ogre/). I recognise that the designers have not always been consistent, but on this issue they do seem to be.

The advice is this:

  • A creature can attack from behind cover, even just a tree, and hide again to repeat the process.

  • But when it attempts to hide again, it does so with disadvantage on its Stealth check.

So a rogue can repeatedly hide in combat to sneak attack the same enemy, but it's harder after doing it the first time, owing to disadvantage on subsequent attempts at hiding. Because it's harder for the rogue to hide, it's also harder to get advantage on the next attack for being unseen.

What else?

We can make some other deductions from the way the designers interpret the rules.

If you are hidden behind cover and you emerge to attack, are you still hidden at the point that you make the attack?

The designers unequivocally say that, if you are hidden, you can emerge from cover to make an attack with advantage. This means that, even though your target may have line of sight to you, you are unseen by it. And the only thing that can make you unseen in this circumstance is being hidden. So, if you are hidden, but come into a creature's line of sight, you can still remain unseen by it and hidden from it.

But that could get ridiculous couldn't it? Couldn't I just prance around right before your eyes, so long as I started hidden?

Agreed. I doubt the prancing was part of the designers' intention.

I think it is reasonable to assume that they did intend for you to be able remain in your current position, while peeking round cover to watch or aim an attack at another creature. There is also the errata that says that you can remain hidden if you are not clearly seen. Whether you're 'clearly seen' is a matter for the DM's discretion, but probably includes three quarters cover, which is what you would have if you were to peek out of full cover. It might extend to any partial cover or obscurement. But it does not extend to being in plain sight of another creature - so no prancing!

If your opponent has seen you move behind cover, can you hide from her?

Yes you can, but if she has a shrewd idea of where you are (eg you're very likely to be behind the tree she last saw you standing beside), you take disadvantage on your Stealth check to hide.

[As an aside, I think the designers are making a mistake here: your attempt at hiding isn't intrinsically worse, it's your opponent's ability to spot you that is better. So their Perception check should get advantage rather than your Stealth check suffering disadvantage.]

The take home message

If you are hidden, you can peer round cover without being seen and line up your shot; you have advantage on your attack. If you're not hidden, you are spotted as you peer round the cover so are no longer unseen; you do not gain advantage on your attack.

Once you have attacked in this way, you can attempt to hide in the same place again, but your check has disadvantage.

This can work but is highly circumstantial

In essence I agree with @SevenSidedDie's answer that you must be hidden when you make the attack, however, there is a nuance in the rule on hiding in combat that is being overlooked:

In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you.

If you come out of hiding and do not approach, say by making a ranged attack, you should get the advantage and all the benefits that flow therefrom. There is a world of difference from knowing the rogue is hiding behind the column and being aware of the exact moment they step out and flick a dagger at you. To rule otherwise is to give the words "and approach" no work to do in the sentence above.

Lets break this down into two parts:

  1. Hiding
  2. Sneak Attack

Hiding

A rogue can make a bonus action to Dash, Disengage or Hide (PHB 96). So, the rogue is in combat, they must Disengage FIRST before they can Hide.

E.g.

  • Round 1 - Rogue attacks, then disengages
  • Round 2 - Rogue Hides (IF THEY ARE ABLE TO), then attacks
  • Round 3 - Rogue disengages, then hides
  • Round 4 - Rogue attacks, then disengages

In such a way, the rogue is moving in and out of combat, but only able to hide if the terrain provides cover advantage.

Sneak Attack

PHB 96 says that a rogue can sneak attack if they have advantage, or the target is within 5 feet of another enemy OF THE TARGET (e.g. one of the Rogue's allies, or a stray troll which decided to also attack the Rogue's target), that enemy (the e.g. the Rogue's ally) isn't incapacitated, and the player character (the Rogue) doesn't have disadvantage on attack rolls that round.

A sneak attack is not an attack made from stealth!!!!

A sneak attack is not an attack made from stealth!!!!

A sneak attack is not an attack made from stealth!!!!

Had to repeat that, as this is 5th edition, and sneak attack is different. You can get advantage from being in stealth, BUT ONLY IF THE ATTACKER CANNOT SEE YOU WHEN YOU COME OUT OF STEALTH

PHB 195: "When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it."

A sneak attack is an attack made in combat while the targeted enemy is distracted, OR, cannot see the Rogue and the Rogue has advantage. Remember, each round is 6 seconds long. So, there are many things going on for which the rogue can take advantage. They sneak a jab in here, a stab there, or even an arrow when the target is busy fending off an ally.

  • Adjusted to meet PHB 195 criteria of stealth. Should have done that first. Thanks for pointing it out @Airatome – Nexmilitis Dec 7 '16 at 6:25
  • 1
    It's just not true that the rogue must disengage before hiding. It might be wise to disengage, to avoid opportunity attacks, but it is not mandatory by RAW. So actually, a rogue can: move, attack, move, and hide, all in one turn; and repeat ad nauseam round after round if conditions allow. – Clearly Toughpick Dec 8 '16 at 11:19
  • Suggest you remove your last paragraph. It defines sneak attack a second time, though you've already done it in an earlier paragraph. Furthermore the second definition does not match the first definition and conflicts with RAW (eg RAW Sneak Attack does not contrast the target's being distracted with the rogue's being unseen and having advantage - which is in itself unnecessary repetition). – Clearly Toughpick Dec 8 '16 at 11:33
  • The excessively punctuated, excessively formatted, and excessively repeated line is not required. – T.J.L. Dec 13 '17 at 14:55

Posting a side answer to those who seem to vent some frustration at the clause of "A ranged attack reveals the attacker on a hit or miss."

Point A: This was done as a game balancing mechanic that makes a modicum of sense, seeing as you're unlikely to be struck in the back by an arrow or crossbow bolt when the attacker is in front of you. If you get hit in the front, you're pretty positive the attacker is in front of you, and in a position to at least see you, if not be seen by you.

Point B: It also depends on where you're striking from. DM ruling on whether a hidden ranged attacker is covered enough by foliage, shadows, etc. to remain hidden. An archer shooting from a murder hole or a castle crenellation is in an obvious location for a defender to be attacked from, so its highly doubtful you'd receive the "hidden" status from them; whereas shooting from one of fifty bushes/patches of foliage in a dense forest is going to be much more difficult to pinpoint where that arrow just came from.

As a DM, I bow to the rules for reason of balance. Abusing "hidden" to reap additional d6's on attacks just isn't going to happen. Archers should be carefully picking targets anyway; easy shots on the target the party tank has engaged is just much easier than trying to logic bend rules.

EDIT: Forgot to mention: Skulker

Prerequisite: Dexterity 13 or higher You are expert at slinking through shadows. You gain the following benefits:

• You can try to hide when you are lightly obscured from the creature from which you are hiding.

When you are hidden from a creature and miss it with a ranged weapon attack, making the attack doesn't reveal your position.

• Dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sight.

It can work. Suppose you're not just a rogue, but a halfling rogue and you're shooting. Then you are Naturally Stealthy and can hide when some Medium or larger ally is obscuring you (say, your tank). It's simply a matter of bonus action to hide behind your buddy, roll attack, move if necessary. There may be cover to consider in this scenario. Ranged attacks mean you don't have to go in and out of melee and provoke opportunity attacks (since you're not Disengaging, but Hiding with your bonus action), but cover might apply, even your friend's back.

Now, if you're not a halfling, you need a handy corner, tree, column, darkness spell, or whatever to duck behind.

Note in combat, especially after the first time you try this, your target is likely to have advantage against your Hide check so the difficulty is noticeably higher.

  • That allows you to hide, certainly, but how does it allow a sneak attack, i.e. grant advantage? You have to reveal yourself (become visible) in order to get line of sight. Ducking behind an ally doesn't cause an enemy to forget where you are. – keithcurtis Dec 13 '17 at 8:08

This is combat. Realistically if a rogue is firing arrows from a hidden position at a creature currently fighting something else. Their ability to pinpoint an attacker is quite difficult. Especially with how a rogue would build it's gear towards being unseen. Say for instance having a rogue 20 dex and double proficiency has +11 to stealth in 5e with a cloak of elven kind. Is geared for this style of combat. It still require an action to make a perception check even if the location is known. If what your attacking is fighting something in front of it. Obviously the rogue has the upper hand staying hidden.

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